Officer Kills Wife, Then Self in Grief Over Son's Suicide


After the suicide of 17-year-old Carlos Rojo, life started to unravel as his parents' 23-year marriage collapsed under the strain of grief and loss.

The Plainville, Ill., couple had filed for divorce, and was, by all appearances, amicable.

But this week, as they were taking a walk with the dog in a neighborhood on Chicago's north side, Alexander Rojo shot his wife Nancy eight times, sat down on the curb and then shot himself.

The 51-year-old Cook County Jail corrections officer had only the day before completed his 14th Chicago Marathon, which he called a "stress reliever."

"Some who knew him through work knew he'd been experiencing some difficulties in his personal life, but nothing that caused any concern," said Steve Patterson, spokesman for the sheriff's office. "They never saw any signs of distress or thought he could do anything like this. They're all stunned."

The Chicago Tribune reported that Nancy Rojo had been in a deep depression and could not work, and the couple had been plagued with financial problems, including two bankruptcies in 10 years.

But family and friends said the overwhelming pain of their son's suicide in 2005 -- he fatally shot himself -- had been the main trigger.

Grief experts say that the death of a child, especially a violent death like a suicide, can take a heavy toll on a marriage.

"There is a lot of guilt and shame after a violent death," said Ursula Weide, a clinical psychologist and grief specialist from Alexandria, Va.

After the traumatic death of a loved one, people may feel anger, irritability and hyperactivation, according to Weide. It's a feeling of "running on adrenaline" or "I am going to explode"

"It can easily be turned against the other individual," she said. "The grief and pain weigh on you, and it can activate fight or flight. It can push you beyond the strength you normally have."

"Usually one is surviving the traumatic death and the other parent is not," said Weide. "They are not grieving in the same way…But who knows what else was going on between the husband and wife at the time. All this is speculation and we may never find out."

No Disciplinary Problems at Work

Roja was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1983 and worked in security jobs until 1998, when he came to work as a correctional officer.

"He had no disciplinary history or troubles at work," said Patterson. "He was a mentor to some of the younger officers and used his own physical fitness as a motivator to some of them to work harder."

But in September, Nancy Rojo, 53, accused her husband of threatening to kill her at gunpoint in their home, according to local reports and court records. She said Alexander Rojo slammed her against a basement door, cocked his gun to her cheek and cried, "I'm going to kill you."

"He came at me like a raging bull" and "swung me in the air like a rag doll," she said, according to court records.

Nancy Rojo said she spent three hours on the floor in fetal position before her husband called police and claimed she tried to kill herself.

Alexander Rojo filed an order of protection against his wife, and she countered two days later with one against him.

Nancy Rojo filed for divorce on Sept. 21 and six days later the pair had their protection orders dismissed and agreed to no contact.

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